SOLOMONS POLICE GEAR UP FOR TROUBLE IN HONIARA

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HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, Sept. 21) – Solomon Islands Police says they are prepared for possible unrest in the capital should that happen in the light of current political developments.

Police Commissioner Shane Castles told AAP it was too early to speculate on the prospects of an outbreak of trouble, but a threat assessment process was in place and intelligence gathering under way.

Riots in the capital in April sparked by the election of short-lived Prime Minister Snyder Rini resulted in the burning down of Honiara’s Chinatown and injuries to more than 30 Australian Federal Police (AFP) officers.

Mr. Rini’s successor, Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare, is now himself facing a leadership challenge following a damaging stoush [dispute] with Canberra over his expulsion of Australian High Commissioner Patrick Cole.

Opposition leader Fred Fono has filed a motion of no confidence in Mr. Sogavare whose own deputy, National Party leader Job Dudley Tausinga, is tipped to resign soon and stand for the prime ministership if Sogavare is ousted.

Mr. Fono said he was confident he had the numbers to oust Sogavare after parliament resumes on October 2.

Mr. Castles, who coordinated the police response to April’s riots, said planning was under way for the possibility of unrest.

"We are very conscious from a security law enforcement perspective that parliament may sit on the second of October; we are informed there could be a vote of no confidence," he said.

"We are preparing for that as best we can within the constraints of our resources to ensure we collect information leading up to the resumption of parliament and support a smooth and safe parliamentary process."

Sogavare has accused Australian police commanders of negligence in failing to stop the April riots and accuses Mr. Cole of trying to stop his inquiry into the unrest.

Canberra believes the inquiry is designed to get two jailed MPs off charges they incited the riots and to deflect attention on to Australian commanders’ handling of the unrest.

The stoush has fuelled unease in Sogavare’s own coalition government over his leadership. Several hundred Australian police and soldiers are in Honiara, supported by New Zealand and Pacific Island contingents, with the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI).

Mr Castles said there was no intelligence held by police before the "now-obviously coordinated execution of the riots" in April.

September 22, 2006

Solomon Star: http://www.solomonstarnews.com/

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